Mark Zuckerberg, Jesus, and Charlie Hedbo Instruct Me on Power

If you know me, you know I’m power-hungry. If you read this blog, my desire for power screams out from every sentence. It’s not the power to control, I seek, (well, not openly) but the power to influence. I hunger to influence readers (you) to go deeper with Jesus.

Which is why I chose to do something trendy this week.

Trendy isn’t my norm. I only JUST acquired my first smartphone and my clothes are a tribute to decades past. But, when I saw that Mark Zuckerberg, the founder of Facebook, was kicking off his book club with The End of Power by Moises Naim, I was intrigued.

Zuckerberg’s book club, A Year in Books, in itself is a remarkable display of power. Moises Naim’s book sold out within hours of the announcement that it was the club’s first read. That’s power!

Not far into the book, I came to understand that I think about power more often than I realized. I don’t believe I’m alone in that. You probably wouldn’t consider yourself someone always seeking power but ponder Naim’s definition: According to Naim (pg 15) “Power is the ability to direct or prevent the current or future actions of other groups or individuals. Or, put differently, power is what we exercise over others that leads them to behave in ways they would not otherwise have behaved.” If you’re a parent, you think about power hourly. Relationships on this planet are all about power.

The world witnessed more aggressive displays of power this week than Zuckerberg starting a book club. Most notably when terrorists killed 12 in an assault on writers and cartoonists at the French satirical publication, Charlie Hebdo. Violent terrorism is the ultimate grab for power over another human.

But a more subtle type of assault on free speech, a political power-play, happened when Atlanta Fire Chief Kelvin Cochran was fired from his job despite a stellar career with no complaints by those he oversaw.  Instead, the mayor fired him for writing a book for use in teaching Bible studies at his church. A book that teaches a Biblical position on marriage and sexuality. Ironically, like Zuckerberg, the mayor’s action sent Cochran’s book flying off the shelves.

Both displays of power against free speech, the one with guns and the one with political klout, are chilling.

Clearly, power is important currency on this planet. Yet, in Christian churches this weekend, people preached, sang, and taught that all power belongs to God. Jesus doesn’t command Christians to seek power in this world but to seek Him and to live in faith that true power rests in God alone. Talk about counter-cultural!

Jesus demonstrated this when he faced Pilate. Bloodied and beaten from His time with the Roman soldiers, Jesus stood before Pilate hearing the crowds outside call for His death. “When Pilate heard this, he was even more afraid,  and he went back inside the palace. “Where do you come from?” he asked Jesus, but Jesus gave him no answer. “Do you refuse to speak to me?” Pilate said. “Don’t you realize I have power either to free you or to crucify you?”

Jesus answered, “You would have no power over me if it were not given to you from above. Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin.” From then on, Pilate tried to set Jesus free, but the Jewish leaders kept shouting, “If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar. Anyone who claims to be a king opposes Caesar.” John 19:8-12

The Son of God, able to access all power, yielded it, for a time, because He trusted His Heavenly Father. Puts quite a perspective on the phrase, “what would Jesus do” in the whole discussion of power, doesn’t it?

It’s fascinating that in The End of Power, Naim observes that the world has shifted from a place where a minority of world leaders hold all the storehouses of power to a place where power is enacted by smaller groups or individuals exerting grassroots influence.  Interesting to me because God has operated this way since He sent His Son to this world.

It could be argued that the Flood was a global display of power by One who held all power in His right hand. Yet, His plan with Jesus, God’s own right arm, was for Him to lay down His life, to submit to a human death. Following Jesus’ death and resurrection, God sent His Holy Spirit into Jesus’ followers and empowered individual believers to do “even greater things” than Jesus did! As if the resurrection was the hammer strike on a great anvil, sparks of Holy Spirit sent flying into all who follow Jesus.

I have always marveled at the energy Jesus displayed during His time on earth but now, I think I understand why He had so much to give. Jesus wasn’t wasting any trying to grab at or hoard power. He abided and rested in the Father God knowing that the power He needed would be present at the time He needed it.

I’m mulling this over now. How will my life look different if I stop grasping for power in my relationships both intimate and global? What if John 15 is the key to connecting with greater power than Mark Zuckerberg, Moises Naim, terrorists, and the mayor of Atlanta ever dreamed of obtaining? What if that power resides within me – and you – right now?

I’m going to study power now too, not how to obtain it, but how to yield to the only One who truly has it. Are you ready to do greater things?

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1 Comment

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  1. Judith Robl says:

    Thank you, Lori, for the timely reminder that we can safely leave all concerns in the hands of the One who holds all power. Life gets a lot simpler when we simply follow and obey. Then God is responsible for the consequences of our obedience.